Monday, July 18, 2011


I can be a very stubborn person sometimes. I'm sure many people who know me can attest to this, when it comes to arguing a particular point. I appreciate viewpoints that are succinct, and conversely have little tolerance for arguments that wander down endless rabbit trails - and little patience for those whom I feel are missing (or avoiding) the point. I want people to be concise, I want them to focus, and I'm not afraid to say so. "Answer the question" is often repeated on many forums. I'm stubborn that way.

But I am not stubborn in this way, I hope: the bullheaded refusal to accept facts that militate against a position I hold. I would like to think I am intellectually honest enough to change my opinion when it is clear it has become untenable in light of the facts. Unfortunately, this is not so for everyone.

By doggedness, I mean the stubborn refusal to accept what everyone else considers to be adequately proven. We could also call this "pigheadedness." When you can actually imagine your opponent saying, "Don't bother me with the facts, my mind is made up," then he is being dogged.


A good example of contemporary doggedness comes from flat-earthers, geocentrists, and other proponents of alternative cosmologies. The Earth is a giant spheroid; that has been obvious since Eratosthenes devised a method to measure its circumference in the third century BC. It's an observable fact and an empirically testable one. When NASA engineers send probes to Mars, their calculations assume a heliocentric (i.e. sun-centred) solar system. The space agency's occasional failures are not attributable to a flawed cosmology! Nonetheless, flat-earthers, geocentrists and the like refuse to accept what everyone else believes has been pretty well established for centuries. Some groups, such as the Association for Biblical Astronomy, claim this is the biblical understanding of the universe - as though humanity's biblical significance depends on where we are, rather than who we are in relationship to the One who fashioned us and put us there.

I see a similar stubborn streak in many KJV-onlyists, particularly those who lend a lot of credence to the claims of Gail Riplinger. Her first book on the subject, New Age Bible Versions (NABV), purports to expose a conspiracy to corrupt the Bible with New Age thought. However, it doesn't take very long at all for a careful fact-checker to discover that the whole argument is a house of cards, built with half-truths, faulty generalizations, circular reasoning, out-of-context quotations, character assassination, and just plain dishonesty. NABV is, in short, a 690-page intellectual fraud. A comprehensive review of Riplinger's misrepresentations would be a book in itself. Even other KJV-onlyists, such as Daivd Cloud and D. A. Waite, have remarked on Riplinger's deceit.

But in the 18-odd years since NABV was first published, I can't count the number of times some KJV-onlyist has said something to me along the lines of, "Yeah, but never mind all that. You people focus way to much on the details of what Mrs. Riplinger has said about whom. Look at the bigger picture, and you have to admit that she has exposed a clear pattern of New Age influence and/or corruption in the modern Bible versions."

Well, actually, I don't have to admit anything of the sort. A conclusion is only as good as the premises that support it. Pro-life apologist Scott Klusendorf talks about a debating tactic he calls "raising the roof." Just as a roof needs walls, an assertion needs good evidence to support it. If an opponent makes an assertion, you are entitled to demand evidence for it. If the evidence does not support the conclusion, then it comes crashing down. Riplinger's smorgasbord of sophistry does not support her conclusion that there is a New Age conspiracy against the Bible.

Riplinger's supporters are dogged: they agree with her conclusions not because of the evidence but in spite of the evidence. Once the flimsy, paper-thin walls of misrepresentation are kicked down, they expect the roof to magically float over their heads.

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